Another question from our Have A Question page. Unfortunately, I don’t have any idea what post he read just before asking, but still, I think we can try to answer the question without that. Here we go:
I agree with you completely on all points. However I have fallen into the traps set by having a sexless marriage. After our second child my wife lost all sex drive. For 10 years sex has been almost non existant. Mayby 6 – 12 times a year. I fell into porn, got caught, but have still struggled with masturbation. I have gone without for months at times but always break down. I have talked with my wife but what else am I missing. Isnt it also a sin to keep your spouse from fulfilling his needs? What are men in this situation to do?
Now, I’m not sure what points he agrees with me on. I doubt it’s every point on the website. The only one I’ve met that agrees with everything I say is my wife, and that’s only because we tend to discuss and study these things together. Nevertheless, the core set of questions survive without that context.
Isn’t it also a sin to keep your spouse from fulfilling his needs?
I think what he meant to ask was “Isn’t it a sin for a spouse to refrain from fulfilling the needs of their spouse”, and the answer to that is yes. If you are refusing to have sex with your spouse, then technically you are sinning:
Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. – 1 Corinthians 7:5
Now, this gives spouses a huge responsibility, of helping their spouse avoid temptation of sexual immorality. I don’t think many realize just how important a task that is. After all, if frequent sex is one of the major defenses against sexual sin, then we should approach it with the same sense of importance that we place on brushing our teeth, as it is a major defense against cavities. And really, isn’t our spouse’s spiritual walk with God, and their fidelity to us far more meaningful than our teeth? Yet not many would dare skip a day of having their teeth brushed, while many skip entire months defending their spouse against the enemy of temptation.
For those who don’t see it as a big issue, or think their role is not that important, I want to point out this verse:
“If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. – Matthew 18:6
We have quite a few warnings in the Bible not to be a stumbling block to others, and a refusal to follow through with your vows, which are designed to partially shield your spouse from Satan’s grasp, is a fairly large stumbling block, I think.
So, is refusing a sin? Yeah, I’d say so. Better a millstone and all that… but…
Your spouse’s sin doesn’t invalidate yours
Just because your spouse is sinning, does not mean that you sin is any less, or any more excusable, or can be rationalized away. It’s lamentable, and it’s something we need to be compassionate about and understanding of, but not excusing. Sin is sin. “She made me do it” didn’t work in the garden, and it doesn’t work today (or visa-versa). So, then, what can you do?
What are men in this situation to do?
It’s not just men. There are women with the same struggle. And you know what, it’s not just married men and women. Singles have about the same struggle: fleeing sexual temptation without the benefit of a spouse to help keep them from it. So, you do the same thing they would:
1) Grow your relationship with God
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13
This answer can sound a little cliche, but nevertheless, it stands. God can, and will, help you through whatever trials come your way, be they external or internal. He never promises to save us from them, but rather that He will be there with us through them, and that His Will will be done by the end. Sometimes that means you get to suffer so that you can help someone else later. Sometimes it means you get to suffer so that you can learn to rely on Him. It’s not that He wants you to suffer, but rather that, if you must go through it, He will put it to good use.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28
2) Practice self-control
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. – Romans 5:3-5
Patience is a virtue, and self-control is part of the process is building perseverance, character and hope. Just as many of us struggled to remain pure before weddings, the struggle within marriage is no less, particularly when your sexual needs are not being met by your spouse. But, this gives you the opportunity to exercise your will. For many, will won’t be enough, you may also need accountability.
3) Get an accountability partner
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. – James 5:16
Finding someone who will help keep you accountable, someone you can be vulnerable with, to share your struggles, to ask for prayer and seek guidance, who will keep you in check, firmly, but compassionately, can be extremely beneficial. I have been blessed to be this accountability partner, for short terms while they find someone in their life to continue the role, with some of my coaching clients, and I can tell you, it works. Sometimes just knowing someone is going to ask how you’re going with your struggles helps overcome them. Sadly, our sense of shame and pride is stronger than our willpower, but, at times, we can use that to our advantage. If you know someone is going to ask you how your porn addiction is going, I guarantee you will try harder to flee from temptation before your next meeting or call.
Who’s a good accountability partner?
- Someone who has been in your struggle, but has overcome, or at least is overcoming it. Do not partner with someone who is struggling in the same way you are at the same time. That’s like two drowning men trying to save each other. If possible, you want them to have gone through what you are going through, so they can offer practical advice, things that worked for them, and so they can be not only compassionate, sympathetic, but also empathetic about your struggle, because they’ve been where you are. This isn’t a hard and fast rule. If you can find someone suitably compassionate who can offer good advice, they may not necessarily need to have been in the same struggle.
- It should not be your spouse, because it’s too easy to rationalize lying to your spouse in order to save them from being hurt. Having a spouse as an accountability partner is great while you’re doing well. But once you slip up, it’s brutal confessing it to them. In fact, it’s so hard, that many lapse back into their immoral habits, and cover it up with lies on top.
- It should be someone you trust, whom you can be brutally honest and open with. This can be very difficult for men especially. We’re not very good at being vulnerable, especially to other men. For some, this means it shouldn’t be your pastor, because, well, some of you are too afraid of pastors to be honest with them.
- It should be someone of your own gender, because this is going to become an intimate, vulnerable relationship. It can be dangerous to have that with someone of the opposite gender. Especially when you’re dealing with sexual sin.
- Someone you know will make you a priority. Sadly too many people get accountability partners who never follow through. You need to be clear and upfront about what your expectations are, and be able and willing to call them on them. If you need someone to check in with you weekly and you haven’t heard from your partner in a few weeks…it’s time for a talk. If it keeps happening, it’s time to let them go, because they’re not prepared for this type of commitment.
That’s the best advice I can give. But, if anyone is still struggling in this area, I offer my services as a Christian marriage coach. I’ve helped couples and individuals deal with temptation in their life, deal with the fallout of confessing it, and work towards a better, more stable marriage moving forward. The caveat is that my clients need to be invested in working on it. If your spouse isn’t, then we’ll do individual coaching, but you can’t do marriage coaching when one spouse has been dragged in. It never works. But, I have seen individual spouses make amazing strides while patiently waiting for their spouses to be convicted, and ultimately helped their spouse meet that conviction by modeling their own growth. In fact, half of my clients are individuals rather than couples, and I love working with each and every one of them.
If you want more information, you can check out Anonymous Marriage Coaching.